Big SUVs, Little People: How to Protect Kids in Driveways
Each year, thousands of children are hurt or killed by drivers accidentally backing over them. These incidents take place in residential driveways or parking lots for the most part. Because more people are driving larger, longer and higher vehicles, we are seeing many more backover incidents.
Although educating drivers and parents is one way of preventing these types of incidents, making vehicles safer will also help. The Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in February 2008, is aimed at regulating power window safety, improving rearward visibility and preventing rollaway cars. The Act was named after two-year-old Cameron, killed when he was inadvertently backed over by an SUV driven by his father. The blind zone behind the vehicle made it impossible to see the boy.
The Act requires the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to begin crafting rules that would require power windows and panels to automatically reverse direction if there is something like a child’s head or pet obstructing the path of the window or panel. In the European Union (EU) 80% of cars already have autoreverse sensors, meaning there is little chance of a limb or pet being trapped by a window. This Act also mandates that automakers install cameras in the back of an SUV so reversing drivers will have clear visibility of what might be in the way. Many foreign and domestic cars already have this feature. All vehicles have a blind spot when reversing, but some are more than 50 feet long, according to Consumer Reports.
Another requirement of the Act is that a vehicle’s service brake must be engaged in order to shift out of park, meaning a driver must have his or her foot on the brake pedal when shifting out of park so that the vehicle does not unintentionally shift into reverse or neutral, allowing it to roll downhill with someone inside. This legislation also establishes a database on injures and deaths unrelated to traffic accidents or crashes, and initiates a child safety information program to inform parents on these hazards and the technologies designed to prevent them. The phase-in of these programs is expected to take 4 to 8 years.